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I (3 months into a PhD) have been fortunate enough to receive some funding that I must use within the next few months to go to a conference. I found a conference I would like to attend that I realistically could submit an abstract for (deadline is within 3 weeks). The conference will be 3 months from now, so I would be 6 months into the PhD by then.

Whilst I do not have to specifically present anything, I would really like to so that I can get practice presenting research at conferences and come away with it saying that I got to make some sort of contribution to my field (whilst obviously quite minuscule for the time being)!

For context, this is for a clinical research conference and I am presenting some computational modelling results. Whilst the preliminary results that I would submit are not substantial at the moment, they do bring a couple of ideas from disciplines together into something that my supervisor has agreed is novel, and would form the theoretical basis for the rest of my PhD. An issue is that some of the results have been inconsistent with other computational papers in similar domains.

Despite this, I would love to discuss these results with others as I saw some giants within my field will be present/speaking. Is it reasonable to attend a conference with very minimal results? What is considered the minimum requirement for an abstract submitted to a (clinical) conference? My abstract is more computational modeling (ie. engineering) focused, but still very much relevant to the field.

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  • When I did my first conference presentation I didn't really have results and the situation was maybe similar to yours (although somewhat better because it was a conference specifically for young researchers). I felt somewhat bad about others having much more elaborated material, but it was a good experience nonetheless. Acceptance criteria can strongly depend on the field and specific conference (some accept pretty much everything, some are very selective), so it's hard to tell what your chances are. Commented May 9 at 10:16

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Congrats on the funding! I agree with you that it's a great opportunity to meet some folks in your new field. I hope you are aware that you can attend conferences without presenting research at them. If your funding allows this, that would probably be the best option, since you are just starting out.

If the funding only funds you if you present research, then you can submit an abstract. No one here can tell you your chances of being accepted because it depends on things we don't know like the size and quality of the conference, the quality of your results, where you're getting your PhD, who your advisor is, etc. But even if it's not accepted, it will be good practice for you to write a submission, and it can turn into a better piece of work later on.

A word of warning, though: first impressions matter. If any bigshots in your field attend your talk, and think the research is junk, this could harm you in the long term. If you do get accepted, then in your talk I recommend you emphasize that you are just starting out, these are all very preliminary results, and you would love to talk to experts and improve the research. The time to impress people with the quality of your results will be when you're on the job market. Right now, it's more important to be eager, curious, hard-working, and trying to learn.

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Your chances of acceptance depend on the conference. I've been to some conferences that accept almost any paper and to other conferences that accept very few papers. This depends not only on the prestige of the conference but the organization: Some have a dozen (or more!) tracks running at once, others have only one.

A couple of suggestions: 1) Does the conference have a section for "student papers" or "first time presenters" or something like that? These can be very useful, and some conferences offer assistance to first-timers. (And, at least sometimes, the audience may be more gentle on you). 2) Does the conference have posters? Presenting a poster can be a good introduction to the world of conferences. They are usually less stressful than papers. 3) Since you are doing a PhD, I'm assuming you have a mentor. Ask them about the conference. They may know the organizers, or have presented there before, or have other advice.

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